'Siberia' fails in effort to nab Antonio Brown

The Bills and their fans suffer another round of humiliation. At least it was short lived

Mike Schopp
March 08, 2019 - 3:11 pm

Photo: Chuck Cook - USA TODAY Sports


There was a day at work about a decade ago when an earthquake hit. I had never felt an earthquake. I'd been around for one or two others in my life, earthquakes that I eventually heard about from someone else. (Did you feel that?! Feel what? The earthquake! No.) But this one I felt. Sue O'Neill from STAR 102.5 came down the hall and into our studio asking, Earthquake? Yes! There wasn't any damage to speak of, at least not that we were aware of, so I thought it was kinda cool and that was it. You missed it, well, your loss.

Some of you missed/slept through last night's Antonio Brown earthquake. I was awake for it. On this one, I'm not sure whether I won or lost.

In one sleep, Brown was, shockingly, a Buffalo Bill and then, less shockingly, not. Shocking that the culture-happy Bills even pursued him, let alone made the winning bid. Brown was coming, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted twice. Then, within two hours, there was hedging, doubts and eventually denials.

I went to sleep at 1:30 a.m., content to settling for the news after sunrise. I awakened to an aftershock. Rapoport, desperately holding onto a lamppost in a hurricane, tweeted that the deal still could happen. Then, minutes later, ESPN's Adam Schefter had Brandon Beane quoted: The Bills are out.

VERY, VERY, VERY FEW Bills fans ever took seriously the possibility that the Bills would trade for the Pittsburgh Steelers star. The vast majority were closed to it. No way does THIS team go after THAT player. Then they did, thrusting us all collectively onto sports' main stage. Before the champagne got passed around the floor fell out.


I have no doubt that the Bills and Steelers had agreed to a deal. Rapoport carries a lot of water for the league and its, as Russ Brandon so relatably put it in his day, member clubs, but he's no amateur. Rapoport and Schefter break many of the same stories within minutes of each other. Rapoport's Job 1 isn't to be first. He's not reporting for a new blog, and it's not his first day. At least one team or league source he trusts surely informed him that the Steelers and Bills had reached agreement. Because of this logic and the many reporters corroborating that story, I'm fully confident that there was a trade.

And then Brown quashed it.

Why did he do that? It's not hard to think of possible reasons.

The Bills have had a subpar passing offense -- this is a very nice way to put it -- for almost every one of the last 20 years. When it comes to a passing game, they are the polar opposite of the Steelers. They don't have the history, or the quarterback, or the coaches, or, well, just about anything.

The Bills' last 10-win season was 20 years ago; the Steelers haven't had a losing season since 2003. Fans get through seasons throwing each other through tables at tailgates, while the rest of us turn our heads in embarrassment. Buffalo is pretty small, and, sorry, pretty cold.

Why wouldn't Antonio Brown want to play for the Bills? A better question is, why would he?

I want to give the Bills credit for trying. I've settled into a position that they don't think they need top talent, that they think camaraderie and (hashtag) hard work will pull them through. They defied those expectations by trying for Brown. Good for them.

In the end though, there's egg on their faces. They don't deserve that, and they do.

You go almost two decades without one good team, and this can happen. You don't need NFL players to realize this. Ask anyone under the age of 25 what it felt like to see the Bills make a Wild Card game two years ago, they'll tell you it was surreal. It didn't make sense. Most current players won't remember the Music City Miracle, let alone the Super Bowl teams.

If it needs to be said, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane don't bear much of this burden. The Drought, most of which they were not here for, is not their fault, and neither are the consequences. Their job is a hard one. If The Drought were a house, McDermott and Beane aren't responsible for that mold they found in the basement after they got the deed, but they are responsible for the clean-up.

I'm in Philadelphia right now, visiting with my friend and longtime radio host in this city, Glen Macnow. I mentioned Brown and he brought up Frank Gore, who a few years ago, in short, signed with the Eagles and then changed his mind.

Philadelphia shakes that kind of thing off. Buffalo clutches the dismay to its chest, and sobs.

If the trade had gone through, it was still going to be a bumpy flight, one that already was in the air when things turned. Numerous references on social media to Buffalo as "Siberia", countless jokes about how Brown got worked by the Steelers, or trolled. You got your wish, they joked. Schadenfreude, with two butt ends -- Brown, and Buffalo.

Maybe McDermott, for his part, going forward can shelve references to Buffalo's cold season when talking about his team and instead play a different tune. Most of their games are played in decent or downright nice weather, and it would be nice if the head coach reflected that. He's always talking about Buffalo being blue-collar; Buffalo actually hasn't been a blue-collar city for many years, and by the way McDermott is from Omaha, Nebraska. Why can't Buffalo have nice things, the saying goes. We do have nice things. Maybe he could help the image, you know?

Let's huddle up. Let's hope this is a good sign for the Bills. One that signifies that they weren't afraid of the jokes, and more importantly not afraid to add a controversial player of this caliber. As far as we fans and residents go, we'll get through it. We like our lives.


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